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This Sun Safety Myth Could Be Endangering Your Kids


As the summer kicks into full gear, most parents are aware that they need to take a few extra precautions to keep their kids sun-safe. However, a new study released in the United Kingdom Monday found that a worrying number of parents' views on sun protection are incredibly dangerous, according to the Met Office and National Health Service in the United Kingdom. Their findings are a good reminder for every family to brush up on their sun safety — and not to fall for this common myth: the idea that a tan is a sign of good health in kids.

According to the Met Office, the study looked at 1,000 parents with kids aged 11 and under, and the results were surprising. A full 7 percent of respondents said they never applied sunscreen to their children, and over one-third (37 percent) of parents believed that a tan was a sign of good health.

As it turns out, that's a pervasive belief in the United States, as well: a poll conducted in 2010 of more than 7,000 American adults by the American Academy of Dermatology showed that 60 percent of respondents incorrectly believed that sun exposure is good for a person's health, and 66 percent said people look healthier when they have a tan.

According to the Met Office, one-quarter of parents have encouraged their kids to get a tan, and 7 percent of parents with kids between the ages of 6 and 11 have actually allowed them to use UV indoor tanning beds. Using a tanning bed even once before the age of 35 can increase a person's risk of melanoma by 75 percent, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It shouldn't be an activity anyone takes part in if they're concerned about their long-term health — and it definitely shouldn't be considered a kid-friendly activity.

One in five parents also said they waited until their children were visibly pink before applying sunscreen (at that point, cell damage has already occurred), and 15 percent weren't aware that you could be exposed to UV rays on cloudy days.

Clearly, many of the mistakes parents are making when it comes to their kids' sun safety come down to misinformation or a lack of understanding. Remember to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before your child heads outside, and follow instructions when it comes to re-application (usually, re-applying generously and often is a good rule to follow). Children also need sunglasses to protect their sensitive eyes from UVB and UVA rays, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and kids should stay indoors or in shaded areas during the sunniest hours of the day (near midday).

Once your kid is ready for some fun in the sun, share the information with other parents. Many people have grown up with outdated information, so it's always helpful to read up on the latest recommendations from experts.